Want More Intimacy in Your Relationship?

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“I want us to be more intimate,“ she says.  “Intimate,” he thinks, “that must mean she wants more sex.”

Men and women often mean very different things when they think about intimacy.  Women often are asking for more emotional closeness when they ask for more intimacy.  Men, on the other hand, sometimes confuse sexual and emotional closeness.  Some men might even admit that they have no clue what a woman is asking for when she asks for more intimacy.  And some men and women can use sexual intimacy as a substitute for emotional closeness.

What, then, is intimacy?

 Intimacy is the ability to engage in close and reciprocal relationships, to engage in cooperative behavior for mutual benefit, and to flexibly respond to the range of others’ ideas, emotions, and behaviors.  Engaging in cooperative behavior for mutual benefit is a good description of sexual intimacy as well as emotional intimacy. 

Intimacy strengthens close relationships and fosters mutual growth.  Intimacy is needed even in platonic relationships because it promotes positive interactions in dyads and teams working towards a mutual goal.

What interferes with creating intimacy?

Intimacy involves giving and receiving understanding and support.  Some people tend to receive but not give.  What can hold you back from giving fully of yourself in a relationship is a need to defend against hurt.  Or you may be so judgmental and defensive that you do not respond flexibly to other’s ideas.

How does a couple create emotional intimacy?

In order to create emotional intimacy, you have to let go of your defensiveness.  You need to listen to the other person with a non-judgmental ear.  And you need to be willing to be non-defensively open in what you share with the other person.  When you are together, talking and listening with these attitudes increases emotional intimacy. 

Intimacy is an essential skill in loving relationships and Dr. Beverly Palmer shows how intimacy can be developed in her recently released book, Love Demystified: Strategies for a Successful Love Life.

3 Tips for Meghan and Harry (and All Married Couples) to Create a Lasting Love

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The beautiful princess (or duchess) and charming prince (or duke) may live in a castle but they will also have to face issues that you do on the way to happily ever after.  Here’s three tips for making love last.

Present as a Team.  People and events may try to pull you apart.  Family and friends will give you advice about what you should or should not do.  But, in trying to follow this advice you may find yourself at odds with your partner.  Major and minor events such as the birth of a child or even celebrations with in-laws can put a strain on your togetherness.  Later, as your child grows there are even more challenges to not having that child play one of you off the other.

Show everyone that you are a team, not just two individuals who can be pulled away from each other.  Disclose and discuss looming issues.  Then use “we” instead of “I” when responding to others.  In that way, others will see you are presenting a united front, one that is stronger than each of you separately.

Resolve Conflicts Successfully.  You will have disagreements that you can’t avoid.  Solving these disagreements in a way that you both win is necessary for a happy relationship.  If there is only one tool that will help you resolve conflicts successfully, it is empathetic communication.

Empathetic communication involves listening closely to your partner, taking a breath before replying, and then stating the essence of what you heard your partner say.  In this way you show you understand your partner’s position.  Feeling understood decreases defensiveness and increases cooperation.  If both of you do this when trying to resolve a conflict, it can lead to a winning solution for both of you.

Show you Appreciate your Partner— Every Day.  Yes, you are so in love now that you can’t even imagine lapsing into days of not connecting with each other at all.  Yet those days will come, perhaps sooner than you expected.  And then you will begin to feel the bloom of romance has withered, or maybe even died.  Yet, if you say or do something every day to show appreciation for your partner, the romance that is there now will be there throughout the years.

There are many ways to show appreciation.  Noticing what your partner is saying or doing and commenting favorably on it is one way.  Hugs, smiles, and saying thank you shows you value having your partner in your life.  Take a moment right now to show your partner some appreciation.

 

Don’t Just Say “I Love You”. Show It.

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You may think saying “I love you” is all that is needed in your relationship(s).  But, if you live each day as if it could be your last with the person(s) you love, you will find many ways to show your love rather than just announcing your love.

Here are some proven ways to show your love.

Give Reassurance and Emotional Support

               Both men and women feel loved when their partner gave assurances that he/she would always be there and supportive.1   Give your partner security by saying you are there for them when they most need it.  Show emotional support by being attentive though making eye contact and actively listening by repeating back a bit of what you heard.

Touch

Don’t let a day go by without touching your partner.  Maybe it is a hug or a kiss, or a shoulder rub.  Touch does not have to always signal, “I want sex”—it can signal, “I care about you.” 2   In fact, contrary to stereotypes, men in long-term relationships who get lots of kisses and cuddles report being more sexually satisfied.3

Be Positive

               When you are cheerful and optimistic, your replies are comforting for your partner.  This positivity also includes being patient and forgiving, showing a cooperative attitude during disagreements, and avoiding criticizing your partner.  Researchers have found that both men and women can show this equally in relationships and it is much appreciated by both genders.4

Do Things Together

               Sharing household tasks, working together on a mutual (fun) goal, walking and talking (but not about problems), and having a night out all communicate that you love to be with your partner.  Although one study found no difference in the men and women using this way of showing love, one other study did find that men tend to using this strategy more than women.5, 6

Show Appreciation

               When your partner does something you like, make sure you say so. And, often, just out of the blue, compliment your partner by saying what, specifically, you love about him/her. 

Do Things for Your Partner (Especially Surprises)

               Have a plant or flowers sent to your partner at work.  Wrap a warm blanket around your partner when he/she needs comforting.  Pack a suitcase for each of you and take your partner on a surprise weekend trip.  A lot of what love is all about is the attraction, caring, and intimacy you are showing through these actions.7

  1. Dainton, M., Stafford, L., & Canary, D.J. (1994). Maintenance strategies and physical affection as predictors of love, liking, and satisfaction in marriage. Communication Reports, 7, 2, 88-98.
  2. Marston, P.J., Hecht, M.L. & Robers, T. (1987). True love ways: The subjective experience and communication of romantic love. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 4, 387-407.
  3. Heiman, J.R., et. al. (2011). Sexual satisfaction and relationship happiness in midlife and older couples in five countries. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 4, 741-753.
  4. Dainton, M., Stafford, L., & Canary, D.J. (1994). Maintenance strategies and physical affection as predictors of love, liking, and satisfaction in marriage. Communication Reports, 7, 2, 88-98.
  5. Dainton, M., Stafford, L., & Canary, D.J. (1994). Maintenance strategies and physical affection as predictors of love, liking, and satisfaction in marriage. Communication Reports, 7, 2, 88-98.
  6. Schoenfeld, E.A., Bredow, C.A., & Huston, T.L. (2012). Do men and women show love differently in marriage? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 11, 1396-1409.
  7. Rubin, Z. (1973). Liking and loving.Y.: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

What Makes Men Addicted to Pornography and Women to Romance Novels (and Chocolate)?

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When we experience love at first sight, a chemical, phenylethylamine(PEA), floods the brain. PEA, an amphetamine-like chemical, makes us feel euphoric and aroused. Surprisingly, we don’t even need an actual person present to have a surge of PEA. This chemical increases even when we read a romance novel or see a sexy picture.1 Yes, it is the romance novel that turns on this amphetamine-like PEA substance for women and sexually explicit pornography that turns it on for men.2

PEA causes us to feel so good but it also can cause us to become addicted to whatever stimulates it.  Then, just as an addiction to amphetamines can induce cravings and withdrawal, we become dependent on seeking out whatever will increase our PEA.

Driven by this chemical hunger, we might even experiment with eating chocolate because chocolate contains PEA. Maybe this is why a box of chocolates is a romantic gift, in the hope that the surge of PEA will increase passionate feelings. Indeed, one study showed that participants indicated greater interest in initiating a relationship with a potential partner when exposed to a sweet taste.3 There is a downside, however.  Chocolate does contain PEA but the PEA is metabolized so quickly that it doesn’t have time to have much effect on the brain.4

  1. Crenshaw,T.L. (1996) The alchemy of love and lust. New York: G.P. Putman & Sons, pp. 55-62.
  2.  Ibid.
  3. Suzuki O, Katsumata Y, Oya M (1981). “Oxidation of beta-phenylethylamine by both types of monoamine oxidase: examination of enzymes in brain and liver mitochondria of eight species”. Journal of Neurochemistry.36 3, 1298–30.
  4. Dongning, R., Tan, K., Arriaga, X.B., Chan, K.Q. (2014). Sweet love: The effects of sweet taste experience on romantic perceptions. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Published online October 21, 2014 doi:10.1177/0265407514554512.

So That’s Why I Fall in Love with the Wrong Person

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Blame it on the chemistry.  Yes, it is chemistry that causes you to fall in love with the wrong person. That tingly euphoric feeling that is there soon after you meet that special person comes from a surge of dopamine that makes you feel so good but it also impairs your judgment.1   You then become obsessed with having the high that comes from every text, every moment with your loved one.

Yet, you aren’t really experiencing the totality of your loved one—you are experiencing only the ecstatic feeling when you are connected with him/her.  And, like any addict, you need increasing amounts and doses of dopamine in order to continue to feel the ecstasy.  What you are experiencing is “romantic intoxication”.2 Then, when your partner does not instantly reply to a text or isn’t available for an entire day, you start experiencing withdrawal.  So you frantically try to reestablish the connection as soon as possible.  At this point you don’t love the person—you love the ecstatic feeling.  And you will do anything to be with that person, even if it is the wrong one.

  1. Doidge, Norman (2007) The brain that changes itself. N.Y.: Penguin Books, p. 115.
  2. Liebowitz, M. (1983). The chemistry of love. Boston: Little, Brown & Co.

Flirting

Whether you want to meet someone new or want to ignite a spark in your current relationship, try flirting.

Flirting begins with a smile and a glance. If the other person is interested, he/she will return the glance and hold the gaze.
Next comes preening–touching your body parts you feel are particularly attractive, such as stroking your hair.
Then lean forward and adopt an open posture, with arms uncrossed, to indicate interest in the other person.
At this point the two of you are engaging in mutual eye contact and are beginning to mirror each other’s movements. For example, if you put your hand on the arm of a chair, you will see the other person do the same.
Then comes the casual touch–you might quickly touch your partner’s arm or leg. At that point, the signal is all systems go.
Of course, either of you can stop the flirtation at any of these stages. But a lot of flirting behavior is done unconsciously so it is difficult to monitor. And, it is not what the two of you are talking about that establishes the attraction–it is what the two of you are doing.
–Beverly B. Palmer, Ph.D. as reported in AOL Health (http://www.aolhealth.com/healthyliving/feature/_a/psychology-ofattraction/20081119125909990001)